The Godfather of Grime is responsible for keeping the scene going. In an exclusive excerpt from his autobiography Eskiboy, the original don discusses the future of the genre
The incredible ascent of grime has been the story of 2016 and 2017. Stormzy’s debut album Gang, Signs & Prayer his number one, Skepta is collaborating with Mick Jagger, and even Jeremy Corbyn’s getting on board with Michael Dapaah’s Man’s Not Hot craze. But grime was once a fleeting phenomenon. Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah heralded a brief chart breakthrough in the mid-’00s, but it didn’t last.
Wiley has faithfully stuck with the genre from its origin to the present day. He’s been there through the hype and the tough times, and he’s acted as a mentor for now-rival Rascal and fellow mainstay (and Another Man cover star) Skepta. Credited as ‘The Godfather of Grime’, Wiley’s autobiography Eskiboy is out now, and it’s the first time he’s put a chronology of grime’s rollercoaster years to print.
To mark Eskiboy’s release, Another Man has been given an exclusive excerpt. Wiley discusses the secrets to starting out as an MC while glimpsing ahead to grime’s bright future.
Eskiboy by Wiley
The current UK scene is very promising. There’s a lot of new stars coming up. I remember when everyone was saying grime was dead. People were wearing ‘Grime’s Dead’ T-shirts. But all it did was flush out all the people who didn’t care, the hangers-on, the fake friends, and strengthened those of us who remained. The future of grime is bright. We’re looking to the kids for the new thing. The future’s in their hands.
Obviously a grime MC’s career is limited to some degree. The best MCs speak from pain, from when they were down and never had a fiver. That’s where the best work comes from. So the more money you get, the more your music will change. And as you get older you’re not shouting any more, you don’t have the energy to jump around and clash. You sort of grow from a grime kid into a grime man, and a grime man shouldn’t really be shouting. The grime man should keep working, earn his money, be happy, and just chill out.
That’s the way I feel, anyway. I’m nearly 40. I’ve got no business shouting and staying up with the 18-year-olds. I’ve still got the same message, and I’ve still got something that fuels me, but I’m not angry in the way that I was. You can’t be angry for twenty years. It’s a bit like football, man, you can’t play at a certain pace for ever. You have to come down a peg or two as you grow older.
In England, I’m not the best MC. But I will stand up and say that I’m the wickedest grime MC, and that I will battle anyone else who’s out there. I don’t need to say the names of the best MCs in England. If they’re clever, they know already.
I’m tired in terms of eighteen-year-olds don’t want me to MC any more. And I haven’t got the energy. I don’t wanna get merked, I don’t want them to say a bar after me. You know what I’m saying? Like, it’s not that I wanna boast that I can go on radio or go on stage with thirty man, that’s not really what I’m trying to do. Now I am older, it’s harder for me. I just want you to spit your bar with your mates and sound better. I can’t clash. Let me spit with people from my own time or just let me spit on my own, man. I wouldn’t put myself up against the new generation – not because I’m scared, but because I’m nearly forty years old! It’s like saying to Jay-Z, ‘Would you battle Lil Uzi?’ It looks bad, for an old man to battle kids. You’ve lost before you’ve even opened your mouth. The first thing people will say is, ‘Look at that old grandad up there!’ I can’t be having that. It’s not a competition thing. It sounds weird, innit, but it’s like I love them youts, I don’t want to show myself up. I’d rather just be a fan of them instead.
It’s changed, and it’s meant to have changed as well. Now I’ve got a little brother and he can go in there. He’s learning, he’s laying down there and soon it’ll be his day. I’m not that new kid on the block any more, but I can still bring people together. I just want to see people flourish.
Extracted from Eskiboy by Wiley, out now. Pre-order your copy here.